Race Archives

May 11, 2004

Are any of them gay?

It used to be that people complained that certain minority faces in a given situation were mere "tokens." That used to be considered something to be ashamed about -- for the person employing the token and the person being used as a token. But apparently that's no longer the case. From the corrections page of the New York Times on Tuesday:

An article on April 30 about dissatisfaction among some black and Hispanic Democrats over the degree of diversity on Senator John Kerry's campaign staff misstated the makeup of the nine aides who travel regularly with him. In addition to an African-American man responsible for keeping Mr. Kerry on schedule, there is a Mexican-American woman who compiles his daily briefing books; the seven other aides are white. (Go to Article)
"There's a black guy who watches the clock, and a Mexican chick who writes reports." I would be embarrassed to read something like this, if I were one of the participants. But I guess our new obsession with "diversity" has overriden our contempt for tokenism -- either that, or we simply have no shame in our society anymore.

October 2, 2004

Permanent Selma

Shorter Bob Herbert: Racists, racists everywhere.

Slightly longer Bob Herbert: It's still 1963, we're still in Selma, and Bull Connor is still in charge. It's always 1963, we're always in Selma, and Bull Connor will always be out there with dogs and firehoses.

Full Bob Herbert: A bunch of black voters in Florida screwed up their ballots, and since they're black it can't be their fault, so it must be a racist Republican conspiracy. And there's no real difference between that and the murder of civil rights workers.

October 4, 2004

Race matters

Remember last year when newly-installed Harvard President Lawrence Summers told Cornel West that it was great that West was producing rap albums and working on presidential campaigns, but could he please fill Summers in on the academic projects he was working on? The reaction from West and his partisans was, essentially, "How dare this guy ask The Great Cornel to be a professor? Who does he think he is? He's dissing Cornel. Racist!" (West then packed up in a huff and left Harvard.)

Well, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there they go again. West recently published a book called Democracy Matters; the New York Times Book Review printed this review last month. It was critical, to be sure, but no more so than dozens of other book reviews they print every month. In response to that review, former West co-author (but unidentified as such) Sylvia Ann Hewlitt wrote this letter to the editor (scroll down):

I am writing to express my dismay at the inaccurate and disrespectful review of Cornel West's new book, "Democracy Matters" (Sept. 12).


Even more offensive than these misplaced charges of sloppiness are the atmospherics of this review. Throughout, Crain's language is distressingly snide and disrespectful. Crain variously describes West as "wince-making" and "deeply confused." He starts off with the thought that West is "whining," and concludes with the sentiment that "journalists, however sentimental, have been doing a better job."

Crain should have had the courtesy to pay tribute to the stature and distinction of the scholar he was dealing with — even if he then chose to take issue with the argument presented in this book. And the editors should have caught and dealt with the appalling tone of this review, a tone that is particularly egregious given the racial overtones. I see this as a major breach of stewardship.

Get that? West is owed tribute, because he's The Great Cornel. It's not only "disrespectful," but racist not to genuflect to him, regardless of the quality of his work. How dare they criticize him?

I think I sense a pattern.

July 1, 2005


From the lighter side of the news, ABC is canceling its latest summer reality TV entry, after it ran afoul of minority advocacy groups. Of course, it seems like whites are the ones who should be complaining about stereotyping:

Under pressure from civil rights groups, ABC Television yesterday canceled plans to broadcast a reality show that let the white suburban families living on a Texas cul-de-sac decide which of seven families - including one black, one Asian, one Hispanic and one gay couple - would move into their community.

In the shows - all of them have been completed - seven diverse families seek votes from three white families in a development called Circle C Ranch, outside Austin. The white families, through a series of interviews, competitions and social interactions, award a 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom, 2˝-bathroom home to the winner - a neighbor, the families say, who will fit in with the community's mostly Christian and Republican values.


An earlier ABC press release promoting the show said in part: "Will the resident neighbors be able to see past their own ideals and accept all of the families as people instead of stereotypes? Eventually some eyes and hearts open up, opinions change and a community is transformed."

The article goes on to describe the "disparaging remarks" made by some of the voting families. Gee, and there was a controversy? It didn't exactly take Nostradamus to see that one coming.

There may be worries about the portrayal of minorities on the show, but there was potentially another problem:

"The show directly violated the federal Fair Housing Act by rejecting families because of their race, color, national origin or the presence of children," said Shanna Smith, president and chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance, consisting of more than 100 private nonprofit housing agencies across the country.
Do you think maybe someone should have run the concept past the legal department before giving it the green light?

On the other hand, maybe if ABC had called it "Affirmative Action Housing," it would have received a more positive response. After all, paralleling the language of the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act prevents universities from rejecting applicants because of their race, color, national origin, etc. But somehow minority groups have gotten around that sticking point. Diversity Uber Alles. In fact, the language of the ABC press release even mirrors the justifications given by advocates of race preferences in college admissions: these policies are for the benefit of the majority, who are able to learn from their experience in dealing with minorities. The only difference is that everyone on the television show was voluntarily participating, but for some reason, that didn't seem to mollify activist groups. Instead, they " worried that the program sent a message that bigotry was tolerable." (Remember: tolerance always good. Except when it isn't.) But apparently they're not so worried about affirmative action in college admissions sending the message that discrimination is tolerable.

In any case, do you think we'll see the same sort of cries of outrage from liberals about "censorship" that we saw when, for instance, there was an outcry about the PBS series Postcards from Buster, or when CBS decided not to show a miniseries about Reagan, or any one of the myriad of other times when a television network bowed to advocacy group pressure? I'm betting the answer is no.

August 28, 2005

All blacks are black, but some blacks are blacker than others

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to exclude people from juries in criminal trials based on race. At the time, Warren Burger warned in dissent:

A further painful paradox of the Court's holding is that it is likely to interject racial matters back into the jury selection process, contrary to the general thrust of a long line of Court decisions and the notion of our country as a "melting pot." In Avery v. Georgia, 345 U.S. 559 (1953), for instance, the Court confronted a situation where the selection of the venire was done through the selection of tickets from a box; the names of whites were printed on tickets of one color and the names of blacks were printed on different color tickets. The Court had no difficulty in striking down such a scheme. Justice Frankfurter observed that
opportunity for working of a discriminatory system exists whenever the mechanism for jury selection has a component part, such as the slips here, that differentiates between white and colored. . . .
Id. at 564 (concurring) (emphasis added).

Today we mark the return of racial differentiation as the Court accepts a positive evil for a perceived one. Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike will build records in support of their claims that peremptory challenges have been exercised in a racially discriminatory fashion by asking jurors to state their racial background and national origin for the record, despite the fact that "such questions may be offensive to some jurors, and thus are not ordinarily asked on voir dire." People v. Motton, 39 Cal.3d 596, 604, 704 P.2d [p130] 176, 180, modified, 40 Cal.3d 4b (1985) (advance sheet). [n10] This process is sure to tax even the most capable counsel and judges, since determining whether a prima facie case has been established will "require a continued monitoring and recording of the ‘group' composition of the panel present and prospective. . . ." People v. Wheeler, 22 Cal.3d 258, 294, 583 P.2d 748, 773 (1978) (Richardson, J., dissenting).

Even after a "record" on this issue has been created, disputes will inevitably arise. In one case, for instance, a conviction was reversed based on the assumption that no blacks were on the jury that convicted a defendant. See People v. Motton, supra. However, after the court's decision was announced, Carolyn Pritchett, who had served on the jury, called the press to state that the court was in error, and that she was black. 71 A.B.A.J. 22 (Nov.1985). The California court nonetheless denied a rehearing petition. [n11]

Burger's worry was prescient, but I'll bet even he never realized how far it would go. Taking the balkanization of American society to its logical extreme, the New York Times reports that Mark Watson, a convicted black rapist in New York, is appealing his conviction, claiming Batson violations. The twist? Watson not face an all-white jury, as Batson did; in fact, there were ten blacks on Watson's jury.

So what's Watson's argument? They weren't the right kind of black.

In an unusual reflection of New York City's growing diversity, lawyers for a West Indian man are arguing that he was denied justice because the Bronx jury that convicted him of rape, sodomy and burglary included only American-born blacks while all five potential jurors who were West Indian were improperly excluded by the prosecution.


The lawsuit challenges the trial court judge's conclusion that West Indians are simply black people "who happen to be from the West Indies" and his rejection of the defense argument that "the absence of this group excludes a specific point of view that cannot be articulated by other members of the jury."

They go on to argue -- with sociological "evidence" -- that West Indians and American blacks have "separate experiences and values." A careful reader will note that this really has nothing to do with what the trial was supposed to be about -- guilt or innocence -- but that's beside the point, when you're playing the racial game. And as more facts make clear, it won't end with a division between American-born and West Indian blacks:
He also said that judges had not supported the defense claim that West Indians were systematically excluded and that, in fact, two of the jurors were West Indian (although Mr. Taglieri says they were of Puerto Rican descent).
Geographers would point out that Puerto Rico is in the West Indies, but that's also clearly irrelevant. There's no stopping point. If there are blacks on the jury, then they're not West Indian blacks. If they're West Indian blacks, then they're from Puerto Rico rather than Jamaica. If they're from Jamaica, well, they must be from the wrong province of Jamaica. If they're from the right province, they could be from the wrong city. Or from the wrong side of the tracks within that city. Whatever. And let's not forget the predictable claim that Jamaican women and Jamaican men have "separate experiences and values," and that the jury needs to include some of both. (Let's not even get into sexual orientation.)

I'd call it the law of unintended consequences, but that usually applies to unforeseen side effects, and as I noted above, Warren Burger predicted it at the time.

Only two things are certain: an imaginative defense attorney can always come up with a new ethnic category, and we'll never put this particular genie back in the bottle, as Democrats will scream "Racists Turning Back The Clock On Civil Rights!!!!!!" at any judge who tries.

August 29, 2005

And speaking of race, the 1960s are over

Mark Kleiman is a very smart person, and (for a Democrat) usually quite reasonable. But every so often, he goes off the deep end. Like many Democrats, that seems to happen when the subject of race comes up. I refer today to his overwrought ranting about Georgia's new voter identification law:

The Justice Department has just given Georgia the go-ahead to disenfranchise anyone who doesn't have a driver's license. The law is supposedly intended to deter fraud, but no one has come up with an actual examples of voting-by-impersonation, and the law specifically exempts absentee voting.

The true purpose of the law, and its certain effect, is to reduce the number of poor, elderly, black and otherwise Democratic-leaning voters.

Kleiman has apparently become a mind reader; if one wanted to play this sort of childish game, one could say that the "true purpose" of opposition to this law is to allow Democrats to perpetuate massive voting fraud. In support of his ridiculous assertion, Kleiman links to this crazed, rambling column by "voting rights attorney" David Becker in the Miami Herald; its title, "A law reviving Jim Crow?", tells you all you need to know about it.

The occasion for this hysteria? Georgia has passed a voting law forbidding black people from votingrequiring voters of all races to show photo identification when they go to the polls. To any sane person, that sounds perfectly reasonable, and doesn't have a damn thing to do with race. But to a liberal, everything has to do with race. Unfortunately, the arguments against this law (all from the article Kleiman links to) are so flimsy that they don't stand up to even the least bit of scrutiny. Opposition to the law is predicated on the theory that black people can't possibly get driver's licenses. One would think the starting point for proving such a point would be telling us the number of adults of each race without licenses -- but nowhere is that information provided. Instead, we get oblique evidence such as:

Additionally, it is surprisingly difficult to obtain a photo ID in Georgia. Though the state has 159 counties, there are only 56 places in which residents can obtain a driver's license, and not one is within the city limits of Atlanta or within the six counties that have the highest percentage of blacks.
Immediately, my BSmeter goes off. Why are we talking about "counties"? When one wants to go to a Walmart, or a Barnes & Noble, or the mall, does one look for one in one's county of residence -- or just one close to one's home or office? Why not tell us how many people live near a driver's license facility, instead of telling us about "counties"? (Telling us that the state has "159 counties" is supposed to impress us by showing us how many are unserved by the state motor vehicles bureau, but in fact, the more counties there are, the smaller they must be, which means the less significance there is to the claim. In fact, that's the case, as this map illustrates; the average county is just 370 square miles (the median is 344, and the largest is 900), meaning that one rarely has to travel more than 10-15 miles to get to the next county.

(The part about the "city limits of Atlanta" sounds bad -- until you find out that this is just temporary, and that they're re-opening their facility there within three to six months. Meanwhile, they have plans to "begin the Georgia Licensing on Wheels (GLOW) program, a mobile licensing bus that will travel the state of Georgia with the capability to issue up to 200 photo identification cards per day.")

Besides, despite Becker and Kleiman's red herring, the law doesn't say anything about requiring a "driver's license." It merely requires photo ID. These can include (as per the new statute) a license; a passport (there are 214 places in Georgia where one can go to get a passport); a military ID with a photo; a photo ID card issued by any federal or state government agency; an employee ID card with a photo issued by "any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, this state, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of this state"; or even a student identification card with a photo issued by any public or private postsecondary school in the state of Georgia. So what's the big deal?

Becker goes on:

The law's proponents claim that it will help protect against voter fraud, but there appears to be no evidence to support this claim. Georgians already have to show one of 17 forms of ID to prove that they are who they say they are when they vote.
In fact, of those "17 forms of ID," ten of them did not have a photograph on them. They included such "ID" as a "utility bill" or "bank statement" -- but not even the originals; a "legible copy" would do. That's a "form" of something, but "ID" it ain't, and a photocopy of a utility bill does not "prove that they are who they say they are" by any reasonable standard. (At most, it proves access to an address's mailbox.) All the new law does is say that ID must actually identify a person in order to actually constitute ID.
Georgia's chief elections official, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, has said that not one instance of voter fraud relating to impersonation at the polls has been documented during her tenure.
Of course, since people don't have to show ID, it would be pretty difficult to "document" this fraud, wouldn't it? Clever, ain't it? Make it impossible to prevent fraud, and then say, "Ha! You didn't prove fraud."

But let's assume I'm wrong about everything I said above. Let's assume that it really is typical for people not to have licenses -- although there are far more licenses than voters in Georgia -- or other ID. Let's further assume that some people really do live far from motor vehicle offices, and that they can't get any other acceptable form of ID. Even so, keep in mind that this is a one-time requirement. You don't have to undertake this onerous task every time you have to vote; you can get a license good for ten years, and can renew it by mail. Does it really amount to "disenfranchisement" or "Jim Crow" to spend an afternoon once every ten or twenty years to get a picture ID?

But if that obvious hyperbole weren't silly enough, it gets worse!

Furthermore, while purporting to combat fraud, the Georgia law expressly excludes absentee ballots from the ID requirement. While all the evidence indicates that minorities are far less likely to vote absentee than whites, absentee balloting is the only form of voting in which there is documented fraud in Georgia. The exclusion of absentee ballots from the identification requirement raises serious questions about whether the anti-fraud justification for the law is purely pretextual.
Kleiman and Becker both raise this argument -- though they don't explain how one could require photo identification for absentee voting. But this proves too much. If it's so easy to vote absentee without identification, then why can't all these black people we're worried about do the same?

In sum, this is simply much ado about nothing. This law won't keep a single legitimate voter from voting. At best, the hullaballo represents misplaced liberal paternalism; at worst, it's deliberate race-baiting by a group of people devoid of any other ideas.

About Race

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in the Race category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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